Friday, December 21, 2012

I Don't Want to Throw Your Kid's Face Away


Having a kid means getting your act together in a lot of little ways. You drink a little less, do laundry a little more, keep the heat a little higher, and the volume of your music a little lower. And you send out cards with pictures of your kid on them.

When Patrick and I first married, I really wanted to start sending out cards that first year, like real live grown-ups, but I didn't. I wish I had-- it would be so nice to have a neat little archive of those years-- but I didn't. Now we're in on the exchange and I'm pleased to see new cards in our mailbox everyday but I'm also puzzled-- what should I do with all these pictures of family and friends once the holiday is over? It feels wrong to just throw them in the trash.

So I put the question to you: what do you do with the photos and cards people send you each year?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Gifts: Spiced Cocktail Nuts

There is still more than enough time to make some really fantastic holiday gifts.  These spicy spiced cocktail nuts cook up in no time, are a cinch to make, and require very few ingredients.


Spiced Cocktail Nuts
slightly modified recipe taken from the fabulous Tartine Bakery Cookbook

5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
7-8 cups or 40oz mixed nuts (I used mainly almonds, but also included peanuts, pepitas, and cashews)

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a jelly roll pan with parchment or a silpat.

Pick the leaves from the thyme and rosemary, then coarsely chop.  Mix together the herbs, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and the corn syrup in a large bowl.  Mix in the nuts with your hands.  The mixture will distribute more evenly once it's heated.


Put the mixture on the jelly roll pan and into the oven.  Make sure to mix your nuts and turn your pan several times during cooking.  They should be roasted and toasty brown in about 15-20 minutes.  Cool the nuts completely.  Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

I plan to package them up simliary to this, though I'd do them in small ziplocks inside the brown back to help with freshness.

Adorable bag tutorial found at The Party Studio

Monday, December 17, 2012

Notes from My Classroom


Last Friday, I woke up early, nursed the baby, and rushed to get ready for my final day in the classroom. That morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen that day, and when I think of “something bad” and my job, my mind goes quickly to classroom shootings. But it was the final exam, so I kissed the baby and my husband extra, extra and went on my way. As I proctored my exam, I kept an eye on my door and alternated between feeling uneasy and feeling silly. Class ended and I packed up my finals and drove away from campus. By then, I was positively chastising myself for being a fool. Then I turned on the radio and heard what happened in Connecticut.

I’m an educator who has had to deal with mentally ill students in the past, and now I’m a parent. I’m thankful Georgia is too little to be aware of any of this. I'm thankful I'm not struggling either to keep this information hidden from her or trying to help her make sense of senseless things (but here's some good guidance if that's what you're working with: Talking to Young Children about Terrible Things.) I'm thankful I have her to hold in my arms. I can't stop thinking of those parents who had their children taken from them. 

There are so many angles to this. Will we struggle with this complex problem in a complex way? No bumper sticker slogan is going to fix this. I laughed bitterly when I heard a call for every teacher to be armed-- weren't teachers too incompetent, too highly paid and too lazy just a few weeks ago? Regardless, as we look for answers, we can cross "more guns" off the list. Anyone packing heat in a school environment needs to be highly trained and have an almost innate sense of when and how to use their weapon in a building full of innocents. In the Tucson shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, a man legally carrying a concealed Glock nearly shot the wrong person in all of the chaos. Even police officers and soldiers make mistakes when using their guns. It's disrespectful and naive to suggest this as a sincere solution to this problem.

(Full disclosure-- I grew up around guns and believe that we need better, not more, gun control and then we need to enforce it. We need sensible gun control reform, led by people who know, use and above all respect firearms. Who these people are, I wish I knew, but it sure as shit isn't the NRA.)

I'm sure many of you have read one mom's struggles to find meaningful help for her violent, mentally-ill son. While my struggle is in no way on the same level as a parent, as a teacher who has had to deal with mentally-ill students, I've been struck by the same lack of real help.

A few years ago, I was teaching a night course in writing that met once a week for several hours. I used to love night courses. They were a nice mix of traditional students and professional adults. My professional students were determined as hell, working during the day and taking a course or two at night. This mix was ideal and I like to think we all learned a lot by having a nice time. I like for my courses to have a playful yet focused feeling, and we laughed a lot as we worked our tails off. I especially enjoyed the work and presence of John*, a young ex-soldier who sat in the front row of class. He was always early to class, had a quick smile, and wrote lively, creative essays.

Around the midterm, I noticed a decline in John's work. The mechanics of his writing were fine but it seemed like he stopped reading the instructions for each assignment. Instead, he was writing long stories about his dog and his father. I tried to talk to him about it and he said he was tired, he was sick, he would get it right the next time. Then he stopped turning in work. He still attended class, still wearing a big smile, paying close attention to the lecture and laughing frequently. A few class meetings went by and I noticed John muttering to himself often when there were lags in class activity and he left the room during group assignments.

On night, he arrived much earlier to class than usual. He sat with a big smile on his face and nothing on his desk. As I began the lecture, John began to talk to himself. As I spoke, he spoke louder. When I stopped, he stopped. The class was shifting in their seats, uncertain about what was happening. I skipped to the group portion of our class and stepped outside to call the only department that was available on campus at that time of night-- security.

"Oh, John is in your class? An officer was supposed to come by your class and let you know John isn't taking his medication and to ask if he's being disruptive. I'll send an officer out now."

John had left the classroom and my students were happily working together grading a sample essay. The officer arrived just as John returned and without any discussion with me, he asked John to gather his things and come talk to him in the hallway. A few minutes later, the officer returned to tell me the young man had been ordered off campus and would return the next day for a meeting with some deans and a counselor.

Once he was gone, a sick feeling I'd been pushing away washed over me. I couldn't stop trembling. The students were done with their group activity and it was time for me to lead things again and I couldn't. I sent everyone home instead.

I felt afraid but mostly guilty. Here was someone who was obviously sick and the only "help" I had given him was kicking him out of my classroom. From reading his essays that semester, I knew he didn't have much and he'd told me on several occasions how much he enjoyed our class and how he looked forward to it every week.

The next day, the campus contacted me to let me know John wouldn't be allowed back until he addressed his issues and was taking his medication again. They were doubtful this would happen. He was barely coherent in the meeting and his family denied his schizophrenia altogether.

The next week, I entered my class and there was John in his usual seat.

(One of the number of things that sticks in my memory is that he was eating the most delicious looking and smelling burrito.)

I turned around and walked out. I walked away from the building to call security again. They told me they'd be right there. I walked back to my classroom to wait for them by the door but John was outside. 

He knew he wasn't supposed to be on campus but he wanted to come to class, he wanted to learn, he liked our class, he was sorry he scared me because he really liked me and it was so confusing, so confusing. He felt like God was telling him things and he was so confused because he could see my rings and he didn't know why but he felt like God was telling him we were supposed to be together.

Security arrived at that moment and that was the last time I saw John.

Of course, I didn't know that then. In the coming weeks, my classroom was moved and I had a security officer outside of my door. I had cell phone numbers for all kinds of deans and presidents programmed in my phone. I didn't have a restraining order-- filing one would have meant revealing my address, so the police recommended against it. John was banned from campus, though how that ban could be practically applied, I had no idea. I'd always been sort of bad at sleeping but I became a full-on insomniac at that point, getting out of bed several times a night to make sure all the doors were locked and all the blinds were drawn. When I drove away from campus, I wondered if I was being followed. I gave up teaching night classes. I started to question every grade my students earned, wondering if the F, D or even C I recorded for them would push buttons I didn't know existed.

I've wondered for a long time whatever happened to John. I suspect he's homeless now. What else could have happened to him? I feel better imagining him on the street instead of in jail.

As the years have passed, I've had more and more interactions with students who need help. All I've been able to do is tell someone higher up and hope they'll get help. Usually, the response to this kind of behavior is punitive and a student who acts up is eventually "asked" to leave. Honestly, what can schools like mine do when we don't have the funds to even keep the library open adequately?

But here I am. I'm a part of something, is it a something that could help? I'm too small to make that possible but if others gather with me, perhaps we could change and start addressing mental illness in a serious way. 

*I've changed his name for privacy's sake.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Homemade Gifts: Cranberry Liqueur

I have many a cocktail lover in my life.  Relatives, friends, neighbors... we can be a boozy bunch.  This homemade cranberry liqueur is a perfect gift.  Make it look pretty and it can be a cost effective solution for the gift for the bulk of your Christmas List, as well as nice to have on hand for unexpected holiday drop-ins.

Cranberry Liquer
based on a recipe from The NY Times

2-12oz bags cranberries
4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 handle (1.75L) vodka*

*kitchen notes:  I use 2 half full handles of vodka so I can simply add the cranberry syrup on top to let it sit for a week before gifts go out.  Regarding the type of vodka, I like to use Smirnoff because it's pretty cost effective with minimal flavor.  This time, I used the cheap Costco brand and like the results so far.

Boil the frozen cranberries in a saucepan with sugar and water until the berries POP.  Puree the mixture in a food processor.   Wait for the mixture to cool, then funnel the cranberry syrup equally into each half full handle of vodka.  Adding the zest of a couple of oranges would be great, or you could also add some cinnamon sticks, if that's your thing.

Let the concoction sit in a cool, dark place - fridge space is a hot commodity during the holidays and cool and dark is sufficient - for at least a week or two.  When you are ready to decant into pretty gift bottles, pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to get rid of the cloudiness.  Since I did not have forethought to make this ahead of time this year to take pictures, go directly to Pinterest for bottling ideas (or hopefully Natty will show us her stuff next week!).

This liqueur is an awesome addition to a liquor cabinet, but I personally love it over ice with fizzy water and a squeeze of lime.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Gifts: A Quick Poem for a Favorite Mamma

It's so "English teacher" of me to recommend giving a poem as a gift, but this poem is one I come back to again and again, especially when nursing Georgia in the middle of the night (or when there are so many dishes in the sink, I can't see the spout.)


     Song for a Fifth Child
   
     Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
     Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
     Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
     Sew on a button and make up a bed.

     Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
     She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

     Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
     (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
     Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
     (Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
     The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
     And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
     But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
     Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
     (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

     The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
     For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
     So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
     I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

                                                   - Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

I've shared this with a lot of moms over the years.  All you need to make this a gift is a printer, some paper and a pretty frame. I just wouldn't give it to anyone who might take this as a statement about her housekeeping. The one above is the one I keep in Georgia's nursery. I'm sure you'll be much fancier with matting and stuff than me!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Top Five Holiday Traditions We'll Be Inflicting on Our Kids

The kiddos met Santa!
Everett knew the name of the game.
Georgia seemed to have a bit of enniu.
Natty

1. Great Grandma's Christmas Tree


It's such a little thing, but when I was a child, this little tree was an important part of my Christmas. My Grandma Ruby lived in a tiny house in San Diego and this was her Christmas tree. When she passed away, I was given her tree. Even though Georgia will never know her, it makes me happy to know that she'll know her a little though her little tree.

2. Books.

Growing up, my mother had a stash of books that only came out at Christmas and I spent the weeks leading up to the big day, absorbed in their worlds. I liked The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for its raucous storyline but loved the tender ending more. Books with toys and dolls that came to life, like The Story of Holly and Ivy, occupied me for hours, all the while making me give the side-eye to the playthings in my bedroom. I read these books every year, even though some of them were "baby" books and I'm building a collection of my own now.

3. Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread

I started making this 5 years ago and it wouldn't feel like Christmas without it. I can't wait until Georgia can make this with me. The boiling of beer and molasses makes this cake seem even more special and rare.

4. Obnoxious, Constant Singing.



Georgia is under the impression that I am a grand, grand singer, so I've really been belting it out this year. Patrick tolerates KOST 103.5 when were driving around town and the Sirius holiday channels play almost non-stop when we're home. I sing along if I know 30% or more of the words. We'll see if Georgia grows up to chime in or crumble and cringe.

5. Not Getting Dressed on Christmas Day.

To me, this is the height of celebration. Sure, you can get dressed if you want, but if you want to spend the entire day, cozy in your new jammies, eating gingerbread and playing with toys... wait, why would anyone want to get dressed?

Cori

1.  Tree Cookies
This, our first year as a fam of 3, will be the first year we do this.  I got this fun idea from an Internet friend who takes a 1 inch or so "slice" (or cookie) off the bottom of the christmas tree every year.  If I remember correctly, her family names the tree, writes that and the year on the cookie, and files it away as a reminder of Christmas Past.  I haven't decided how we'll utilize the cookie, but likely in a similar way.


2.  Christmas Eve PJ's
As a kid, we were allowed to open one gift every year on Christmas eve, and that gift was always pajamas.  There is something about wearing new PJ's to bed on Christmas eve that makes it even just a touch more special.

3.  Jingle Cats
Music to our ears!  Every year whilst trimming the tree, we must listen to the album at least once.  Can you handle it?

4.  Poppyseed Danish
My big grandma made it, my mom makes it, and we shall eat it. 

5.  Dad's Christmas Tree Cutouts
I wish I had a picture of this, but we haven't put up the outdoor decor as of yet.  My dad hand made sparkly, white, lighted plywood christmas trees for each of my siblings that sit near each of our front doors.  No matter where we are, we are all connected and think of my dad and each other whenever we see them.  I love it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Are We Dweebs? We Just Got a Nest.

We spend a lot, too much, way too much, on electricity, especially in the summer. With a baby and an asthmatic in the house, not running the air conditioner just isn't an option, but it makes you feel crazy to get hit with an electricity bill for over $500. It also just makes me feel gross, like a somewhere out there, Woodsy Owl is actively disappointed with me.

Woodsy Owl is coming for you... in your sleep...

In the mild months of spring when we don't use the a/c or heat, our electricity bill is only about a hundred dollars (which may still sound a lot to people in other parts of the country-- electricity in Southern California is idiotically expensive) so it's clear to us the bulk of our electricity bill comes from keeping the house a comfortable temperature. So we're throwing some money at the problem, hoping the investment now will pay off in the future.

We're replacing the insulation in the attic, redoing the weather stripping, slowly replacing our windows, and have installed a Nest Learning Thermostat. Well, we didn't install it, Patrick installed it. Big ups, honey.

Don't call it the iPod of thermostats-- we're Android people. But, oooh, it is pretty. Before, we had a Honeywell thermostat that glowed ugly and blue-green all  day and night (and was impossible to program in any meaningful way.) It's stupid, but I love how the display only lights up when you're standing right in front of it.

The thermostat can also be adjusted from my laptop of cell phone. I was entirely too excited when I was nursing Georgia in her room and felt a little chilly. In a month, we'll get an automated energy report.

It's not even close to a flying car but so far, I like that little bit of future hanging on the wall. I'll let you know if it saves us money!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

So I'm Not Going to Win Mother of the Year

By now, you probably have seen this youtube phenomenon:


I don't take all my parenting cues from youtube, but wow, this works.  Hot Buttered Mythbusters has proven it:



Need I say more?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Er Mer Gerd, We Actually Did Something From Pinterest!

We saw the following on Pinterest...


...and then actually tried it ourselves. In real life. I know, I'm as shocked as you are! Now we have adorable photos for our holiday cards.



Many,  many, many thanks to Lizvette Wreath Photography for the idea!

Friday, November 30, 2012

All I Want for Christmas: My Christmas List

This is my Christmas list.  Finances have been tight, so I haven't bought myself much of anything recently, ergo the list is particularly plentiful.  Though it may seem a heavy handed hint to my darling husband,, hopefully it will give you an idea or two for a woman in your own life or even a few ideas about what to wish for this year.

Kitchen Wall Calendar
My iPhone calendar ap is great, but there is something really nice about having a hard copy family calendar up in the kitchen.  This one is nice, but I'd love any of an assortment of pretty botanical or native California plants calendars.
Found here


Taurus Necklace
You can't get much sweeter than jewelry with your child's astrological sign.  I love both of these abstract interpretations of Taurus.
Steal vs. Splurge


UCLA Hoodie
Alma mater pride in a more feminine cut.
Go Bruins


Fabric/tea towels from Spoonflower
Spoonflower is one of my all time favorite sources for unique and beautiful prints.  These tea towels are awesome and I love the way a pretty tea towel makes the kitchen a little happier.
Too cute


Voluspa candles
I have never met a candle I love more than Voluspa.  They are pricey but you can find them on sale if you are open to new scents.  Several different retailers sell them, but I often find them in the clearance section at Anthropologie.
Bliss.....

Police Scanner
This is completely superfluous and idiotic.  It just goes to show what a busybody I am now that I'm at home all day, but it would be super interesting to know what's going on in my hood when I hear the sirens a-howling.  
Don't hate me 'cause you ain't me

Modernist Cuisine at Home
This cookbook, put together by a super techie ex-Microsoft big wig, is supposed to be absolutely amazing.  I would love to have it in my cookbookcase, but it's expensive!
buy me


Tocca Perfumes
There is nothing better when you smell questionable (small children and too many animals can do that to you) than to spritz on a little of this stuff.  A little goes a long way and these scents really are divine.
At Sephora
Big Purse
I'm a woman in between a purse and a diaper bag.  I don't want to take the diaper bag to the grocery store or dentist when I'm flying solo, and I dislike having a purse that makes toting along a few wipes and diapers inconvenient.  I'm hoping a larger, organized purse will help bridge the gap.
via Etsy


Prints for Kitchen
I love prints as gifts for the house.  I know artwork is very personal, but for me... I have so many bare walls, I think it's such a nice reminder of the person who gave it to you and the sentiment rather than the print itself.  I can always find a place for it somewhere.  My kitchen could use a few new prints to spruce it up.  There is not much in the world that is happier to me than bread and food and cheese and cookies and, well, warmth and love. 
Etsy is a great source for prints, though searching can be a pain

FitBit
Bran has one of these nifty little pedometers that tracks your daily steps and uploads them to a website that tracks your progress.  If you buy the scale, it will automatically sync and tell you how you're faring. It's great motivation to keep moving and is an easy way to make sure you're getting all the moving you need.
Fitbit now has several options
Clothes
I plan to do a post soon on my ideas for sprucing up my wardrobe on a shoestring, because it needs it desperately.  I'm in a very weird spot, with not having bought any clothes since before I was pregnant (over a year!).  Significant changes in my needs and wants in clothes have occurred over that time period, and I want to invest in some new items that are comfortable but nice.  My goal is also to feel good enough that I don't fear leaving the house just in case I unexpectedly run into someone I haven't seen in years, all without breaking the bank.  Possible?  Or am I destined for mom-jean-dom?



What is on your wish list this year?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why am I being weird about introducing solids?

At Georgia's three month appointment, our pediatrician said, "The next time I see you, I want you to have tried giving her a little rice cereal. Not much, just a tablespoon thinned with breast milk." His reasoning is the iron content of my breastmilk is dropping and the cereal is fortified and blah blah blah rice cereal.

I'm being weird about it. For a few weeks, I'd be at the store, go to buy a box of the cereal, stare at all my choices, handle the boxes, put one in my cart, then ditch it a few aisle later. I've managed to get some home at this point, but it sits on the shelf in the pantry and the only thing I've done with it is give it the side eye from time to time.


At Georgia's four month appointment, I had to admit that we hadn't tried with the cereal yet. I really like my pediatrician and I try not to dismiss the advice of any doctor I trust and like, but I also think we have to pay attention those feelings the grip us and make moving forward difficult.

Part of my reluctance comes from tummy issues myself for a long, long time and I worry that Georgia will inherent them. Part of it comes from a feeling that spoon feeding is a hassle best avoided. And part of me feels like she just isn't ready for anything other than breastmilk.

Today was Georgia's 5 month appointment. She's nearly 16 pounds, 26 inches tall and by every other measure, she's growing beautifully. And she still hasn't had any rice cereal. My pediatrician shrugged his shoulders and said if she doesn't have anything but breastmilk by the time she's six months, that's fine, and something deep inside of me relaxed.

I think at the heart of all of this is a reluctance to push Georgia through her milestones. Out and about, people ask, "Is she teething? Is she talking? Is she sitting up yet?" And I know it's right that babies should grow and change and the alternative to development is not a good one.

But this little baby did not come easily into our lives and as I look down at her in my arms, I wonder to myself "What if this is my only baby?" I just don't want to rush through these weeks and months and years.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How We're Living: November

Everett & Cori

6 months
Rawr

Time flies.  It has been a little rockier in terms of sleep for our household this month, but Everett is still a joyful bebe. We seem to be going through more phases than we used to, but we're still doing pretty well. Some days it's great, others it's OK.  It's never terrible, but we certainly go through periods where it kinda blows.  We thought it might be teething, then maybe not, then probably not, then just baby being baby.  Did you hear I had a baby and he's all babylike and stuff?  I sound wishy washy because I am.  Every day is different, but this is a typical one:

5:30am- Everett wakes up to nurse.  Oh wait.  He doesn't nurse AT ALL anymore!  FML!  I get up and grab him a pumped bottle.  He drifts back to sleep.  I wake up for the day.  Maybe.  I pump and then spend a little time to myself before everyone wakes up.

7:30 - Household awakens.  Bran feeds Everett a bottle while I tool around or we all cuddle in bed.  He then hands the baby off to me while he gets ready for the day.

9:00-  Everett goes down for a nap.  He sleeps for an hour.  This is when I get ready, shower, clean, start laundry... try to get the annoying crap out the way.  Or I fart around on the Internet depending on how I'm feeling.

10:00 - He wakes up and eats SOLIDS (after baba)!  Bananas, and yams, and winter squash.... OH MY!  We hang and play or run errands or ...? 

12:30- He probably is napping at this point, but his schedule is in the midst of a change.  Usually he'll nap for 45-1 hour minutes midday, but has been known to steal a 3 hour nap if the mood strikes.  He's pretty regimented usually, though.

1:30 - We walk and talk and play and hang.

4:30 - Usually, another 45 minutes to an hour nap.  Sometimes we'll walk at this time, before the sun sets, and he'll nap in the stroller.

5:30 - Wake up before daddy gets home.  I will usually feed him MORE SOLIDS.  My kid loves to eat.  More activity after he gets a food.

6:30 - Bran walks in and he gets babby!  Play time and change the clothes/diaper.  We hang out in the kitchen while I cook.  Everett will want to go to sleep around 7:30ish.  I will finish up dinner while Bran does the nighttime routine - bottle, rock, songs, sleep.

8pm- Hubby and wifey eat dinner, watch TV, hang out.

9:30 - My last pump of the day (other pumps are 6am, 11am, 4pm, roughly).  Everett is really changing things up for us, but usually the earliest he'll wake up is 3:30am (after 11pm dream feed - crosses fingers and toes).   He doesn't even want to eat, he'll just be disgruntled.  This is part of a phase, I think.  I just shhhh him back to sleep, or give him Mylicon, or sometimes rock if he's particularly upset.  He usually wakes again at 5:30ish to eat a little something.  But it changes daily and you never know what to expect. I expect the worst and go to bed thinking I'll get 5 hours of sleep in a row with several other pieced together, so then everything good after that is the cherry on top. 

Georgia & Natty

We're almost to the five month mark and life has become a bit more predicable than it was just a month ago.

7 a.m. - Everybody wakes up. I nurse the baby in bed, then Georgia plays between us while Patrick and I have our morning coffee. It's easily my favorite part of the day. Reluctantly, we get up and start our days-- Patrick gets ready for work, I fire up the laptop and start emailing with students, and Georgia plays with her toys.

8:30/9 a.m. - Georgia takes her first nap. This tends to be her big nap of the day, so I use the time to have breakfast, shower, and get as much work as possible done. Sometimes she nurses before she lays down, but she's often more sleepy than hungry at this point.

11 a.m. - Georgia wakes up and she nurses. Generally, I've left her in her jammies from then night before, so now is the time for a bath and getting dressed. If it's nice out, we'll often go for a walk but the air has been awful lately, so she's more likely to play on her play mat until she's ready to nurse and nap again.

12:30/1 p.m - Nap #2. I grab some lunch and get back to work.

2:30/3 p.m. - Georgia wakes up and lots of times, we nurse, then head out and do some errands. She's sitting in the seat of the shopping cart now, so errands are a LOT more fun for her and I can get out with more than a little handbasket of food. Winners, all around!

4:30/5 p.m. - Usually, she takes one final, quick nap around this time but it's a tough one. It seems like lots of things come up at this time, or she only sleep for 10-15 minutes and doesn't really rest and the rest of the evening gets very tough. I never realized how much time and energy I would put towards protecting my child's naps! If all goes well, she sleep for 45 minute to an hour and she's fresh and happy when Patrick comes home.

5:30/6 p.m. - Georgia is up and once daddy is home, she's his best friend. I volley between wrapping up my work and getting some dinner together. We bounce between eating dinner, nursing, getting little miss ready for bed, relaxing and reconnecting.

7:30/8 p.m. - I take Georgia into her bedroom for a final nurse before bed. Putting her to bed used to be the most stressful part of our day but it is slowly getting better. It takes about 30 minutes of rocking and nursing to help her drift off but after that, I can usually lay her down and she'll sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning. Sometimes, she wakes up again at 5 or so, but there have been a few times where she hasn't gotten up until 7 the next morning, which you can imagine feels AMAZING.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving

To My Butterball,

You are here.  Here are you.  I remember thinking last year at this time, when nobody but a few close friends and family even knew you were percolating, that I would have a 6 month old next year at this, my favorite time of the year.  It's amazing.

You are here and you are better than I ever could have imagined.  For that, I give thanks.

This year is going to be different.  We'll still have the same old dry turkey, too loud football, and tipsy spilling of family secrets (I will tell you about them when you're older - I have some gems), but you... you are the new addition.  It will be so fun. I am going to try to savor every morsel of you and this experience this holiday season.  We are so lucky, I know, and time passes too quickly.

In years to come, I hope you are able to appreciate Thanksgiving, with a deep love of family and self that stretches from here and expands further than time can tell.  The people make today what it is, the food just makes it extra tasty.  You know I love Thanksgiving and cooking, and we would have great fun if you also were curious about the perfect turkey temperature or delectable brussels sprouts recipes(they exist!), but more than anything, I just want you to want to learn and be curious about the world in whatever facet you so desire, today and always.  I would so love for you to find joy in strategizing with Daddy about football, watching reruns of Twilight Zone with Dad (my dad), or chatting to your cousins about their adventures in college or life.  I hope you can find your unique lens to appreciate Thanksgiving through.

I will do my best to help you become a person who finds it easy and rewarding to be reflective and appreciative today and all days by living my life that way, as best I can.  We love you so much.  This is the start of our first holiday season being a family of three and I am so thankful for today, and for you, and for this life we are living.  You are best.

Love,
Marmee


Dear Georgia,

On Thursday, 21 people who love you will come to your house. They'll be noisy and funny and pass you like a sack of hilarious jewels from person to person throughout the afternoon and evening. This will be your first Thanksgiving.

Next year, you'll eat sweet potatoes and chunks of turkey with your fat little hands. The year after, you'll be the littlest one at the kids' table with your cousins. I have to squint to see much more into the future than this. Will you be saying thanks for a brother or sister? Will you put on a tutu and dance for your guests, or will you hide in the drapes with a book? As the years pass, will you be in the kitchen, tasting the gravy with a critical eye, or will you be in the living room, starting a debate with your most opinionated kin?

I hope this day is always a happy day for you. Sometimes we grownups let the stress of entertaining or family hiccups overshadow what should be a day for feasting and gratitude. I hope that as you grow, you see us expressing gratitude for this life every day of the year. And I hope as you grow into adulthood, you can be grateful to us making this world a little better for you and your generation, not worse.

For now, I hope I take a moment with you on Thursday just to hold you in my arms and sniff your perfect baby head as I give thanks for you.

Love,

Mama

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to "Make" a Security Blanket

Lovies, Soothers, Minkies, Blankies... whatever they're called, they're wonderful.


I had a blankie growing up and when I was little, my mother was in a skiing accident that had her in and out of the hospital for about a year. I remember holding my blankie close and missing her terribly as I fell asleep.

Georgia's never taken to a pacifier or sucked her thumb, but she's been able to self-soothe for a long time because she has her "minky", a fleecey little security blanket with a monkey's head in the middle. That's a rather stark description but you can see in the picture above, it's very sweet.

Choose wisely. You want to pick something safe, small, and stylish.
  • Safe. Button eyes are precious and a bear wearing rainboots is adorable but choking is not cute. I inspect Georgia's lovey daily, especially where the little bow is sewn to the top of monkey's head.
  • Small. My neice somehow bonded with a huge, heavy lambskin rug and she would dutifully draaaaag that thing around with her. My own blankie was the size of a beach towel and it was often filthy from being dragged along the ground. Georgia's is small enough to be tucked into a purse of pocket.
  • Stylish. If your child really bonds with this item, it's going to show up in a lot of pictures. I've known a couple of kids who bonded with mom's pillow case and toted them around for years. No pillow case is going to live through that with its dignity intact and when you look back on pictures, you probably don't want to reminisce too much about a piece of filthy laundry that often smelled like pee (FACT: Your child's blankie will often smell like pee if it travels with them into toddlerhood.)
It's a major bonus if you select something that you can buy duplicates of. Georgia's minky was a gift, so when she took to it in a powerful way, I spent days tracking down duplicates on Amazon. We keep the spare in a special box and swap it out when it needs a bath.


Get Your Scent All Up On It. I asked my mom how she got her kids to bond with the item she'd pick and she reached over and stuffed that minky in my top. Point taken, mom. For about a week when I was home, I wore her minky in my top, next to my fun bags. When I fed her, I would put the minky next to her face as she nursed. It only took a few days of this to get Georgia hooked.

Use Its Power Wisely. I really only try let Georgia have her minky when it's nap time or bed time. It's been a good signal for her when she is in her car seat. I only put it in with her if it's nap time while she is in the car. Otherwise, I give her a toy that is more stimulating. I'll also give her her minky when we are in chuch during her normal night time. It's a subtle signal to her that it's time to pass out, even when she is nowhere near her crib.

As she gets older, I hope it will be a friend to her at bedtime and when special soothing is needed, but not a constant companion. I don't want to see it lost or damaged but I also don't want it to become too regular, either become essential to living or too ordinary to be special.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Make a Crazy Easy Baby Blanket

Blankets were a big deal in my house growing up.  My brother had a blue blanket with satin trim (think Linus from Charlie Brown) that was loved so dearly, it ended up in shreds.  I had an assortment of thick fleece blankets with "unique" prints that were wonderful to cuddle up with watching Saturday morning cartoons or take to the park for warmth while watching my sisters play softball. 

How can you not love this?
There was/is nothing better than cuddling up with a soft-from-wear best friend.  It's like always having a hug at your disposal.  The blankets that I'm making combine the warmth of fleece with the silky satin that so many kids love.  You can make this blanket double thick by sewing two layers together before attaching the binding or change up the fabric choice, should you so desire.  You can do a smaller version to make an easily toteable "lovey", or something as large (or larger) than mine.  I am a beginner sewer, but these are easy and make great gifts.

Supplies:
fleece of your choosing (I used 1.5 yard x 60" fabric)
2" satin binding
thread to match binding
Gray/orange will be smaller than this one

Lay your fabric flat on a table or the ground.  Check out the binding - there is a long side and a shorter side.  Make sure your shorter side is facing up.  This is the side you'll sew to you make sure you catch the back.

Back is longer, top is shorter
 
Start pinning the binding on

To create the mitered edge, tuck the fabric under at a 45degree angle and pin

So, it's not perfect!

Sew zig zag stitch

Turn the corner!

Hang on la cuna.
So, it's not perfect .  My corners could be crisper and my stitching could be closer to the edge, but it's homemade after all.  It also only took about an hour from start to finish.  Prudent baby has a pretty good tutorial if mine is not up to snuff for you.  Truly, this is so incredibly easy and I think it's so sweet to make little things like this for our children, even if they're imperfect or silly.  They may not understand it now, but it's an easy, sweet reminder of being little and, well, you :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

"I searched Google for what??"

Hey new parents! You know what's amusing? Pour yourself a glass of wine some evening after your baby has passed out for the night and review your desperate Google searches for the past few months. It'll be fun, I swear! Here are some of our more interesting searches from the last few months:

Cori

My name is Cori and I'm a Googleholic.  In order to be absolved of my sins, I'm going to confess.  These are some of my searches.

"36 week preterm baby"
Google image search so I knew what I was in for when I found out I was delivering at 35w4d

"cesarean pain management breastfeeding"
I opted for all the pain meds.

"hot breasts"
In the most literal sense possible.

"baby instructions" 
Found 'em.



"vbac docs Los Angeles"
This one was googled within the first week of being home with Everett.  I'm either a great planner or a big hater of c-sections.  Both.

"zinc oxide poisoning dogs" 
Henry ate an entire tube of butt paste.  Poison control said it's not lethal for a dog that size, but he was very sick.

"what to do with a 3 week old"
I had a hard time wrapping my head around how to entertain a baby for so many hours.  The answer is, you don't.

"baby poop stain remover"
Best option - the sun!

"baby ingrown toenail treament"
My first major fuckup as a mom - clipping his toenails too short thereby facilitating an ingrown toenail.  Go mom!

"Breastfeeding hungover"
While I would never breastfeed intoxicated, Google gave me the green light to go ahead and do so after an evening of overindulgence (thankfully only a mild headache).  

"baby whiteheads permanent?"
 They're not.  It took everything in my being to not pop them.

"8 week old eats constantly" 
 Normal.

"7 week old sleeps all the time"
Normal.

"baby fedora"
Lord have mercy on my soul.

Natty

"breastfeeding while sick"
"antibiotics while breastfeeding"
"how long will it take for my supply to come back after being sick"

I got really sick when Georgia was about 8 weeks old. I stayed in bed and just nursed her while watching a lot of television and panicking quietly that it would put an end to breastfeeding for us. Thankfully, I was on the mend after three days in bed. Even though I hardly ate a thing, my body kept up and my supply was back to normal within about three days.

"hulu plus is awful"

Sometimes I just use Google to complain.

"moms who work part time happiest"

I'd seen a study on this years ago and needed to reassure myself at the end of a day where I wanted to resign all my positions with no plan for the future.

"you got a ham"

Your guess is as good as mine.

"is my baby playing on her back too often"

No.


"my baby is content in her crib. am i neglecting her"

Gawd, no.



"baby sproles jersey"

Because this is what we should be spending money on.

"child deduction 2012"


Finally, something sensible.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Guide to (Almost) Exclusive Pumping

Breastfeeding is my first choice, but sadly, it's not Everett's.  I have had almost 6 months of experience with the pump, so I have picked up a few tricks and tips along the way.  These are the best ways I have found to increase supply and help keep positive about the experience.

Get a Good Double Pump
I love my Medela hospital grade pump.  It is definitely an expense, but I have tried other pumps and there is no comparison.  The hospital pump is quiet, gentle, and extremely effective at emptying the breast (thus creating more milk in the short and long term).  You should take your breast health and lifestyle into account when you are considering which pump to buy or rent.  Babies are much better at getting the goods than any pump, so women who use pumps exclusively are more prone to clogged ducts.  A good pump will really make a world of difference and save you a lot of heart/boob ache.

Make Sure Your Breastshields Fit Properly
Pumping should not be painful.  Flanges come in several different sizes depending on the make and model of your pump.  The pump will come with the most common size flange, somewhere around a 25mm.  Your nipples should not rub against the inside of the shield while you are pumping.  If you are unsure if you have the proper fit, check out this fitting guide.

Pumping is so much fun!
Get a Pumping Bra
I would have given up on this a long time ago if I was not able to use my hands while pumping.   My pumping bra has been a godsend.  I am still tethered to the machine, so I'm not able to practice my dance moves or anything, but I can blog, surf the net, watch TV.  It helps me relax and forget that I'm pumping, which I think in turns allow me to produce more boob juice (I promise that's the one and only time I'll call it that).

Relax If You Can
It is important to relax when you are pumping.  Regardless of when I pump, I usually go so far as to cover up so I can't keep checking how much I'm producing, thereby stressing about it.  For me, the first and last pumping sessions of the day are easy.  I wake up before Bran and Everett so I can pump while I have a little time to myself.  I check my emails, blog, catch up on news, surf the net. In the evenings, I pump after Everett has gone to bed while I catch up on my DVR with Bran.  Easy.

The middle two pumpings take place when I'm solo with the little dude, so they tend to be a little less relaxing.  This means it's really important to me to take some steps to get myself as comfortable as possible.  These two sessions are done either while Everett is asleep (this is preferred) or he's in his jumperoo or chilling on his mat.  I'll make myself lunch and grab my water, the phone, cell phone, computer, and TV so they are all within reach.


Drink More Water than You Think You'll Need
There is no such thing as drinking too much water.  Keep a Nalgene full of it with you at all times and drink at least 4 of them throughout the day (128 oz).  Drink so much your back teeth float.

Get Enough (Healthy-ish) Calories
It's so important, especially in the early days, to make sure you're getting enough calories.  I was starving pretty much the first 6 weeks after birth, with an appetite less specific but more demanding than while I was pregnant.  I have been able to cut back a bit, but I waited until Everett was 3 months old to do so.  The Hunger is not nearly as intense now that things have found a happy medium, but I am definitely not back to my pre-pregnancy appetite.

Add An Extra Pump Session/Time
During the first 2 months, it's important that you are pumping every 3 hours during the day and every 4ish overnight so that you can establish your supply.  This is also a great time to start stockpiling extra milk for future.

If, at any time, you want to try to boost your supply during the first few months or anytime thereafter, add an extra pumping session into your regimen.  Currently, I pump at 6am, 11am, 4pm, 9pm and make just enough milk (30-35oz, but he also nurses a couple times a day and once at night).  I do not have any freezer stash, so if I have less than three bottles in the fridge, I will pump 5x that day and possibly the day after.  After this, I usually see a notable increase in my production.

Buy Multiple Part Sets
The only thing worse than the time it takes to pump is the time it takes to clean your parts.  Invest the extra $25 and make sure you have an extra set that is clean for when you are really tired.  Remember, you can also rinse the parts after each use and store in a ziplock bag in the fridge, but generally I only use them twice like this.  I run a load of bottles and pump parts every evening before bed.

Consider galactagogues 
I have heard wonderful things about Fenugreek and Motillium.  I would have no problem using these things but thankfully haven't had to thus far.

Consider Allowing Formula Supplementation, if needed
The whole childbirth experience made me a little cloudy headed.  My birth experience was pretty scary and traumatic.  Breastfeeding did not go how I had wanted it to, either.  I was so excited to breastfeed, that when things unfolded and I needed to pump so often, I had a one track mind - I was going to do anything it took to make it happen.  In my hormone-laden, sleep-deprived postpartum state, I felt like a failure in so many ways that I wanted to do at least this one thing for Everett.

I put SO MUCH pressure on myself with the pump.  Luckily, I produced enough, but psychologically, I was always extremely worried about having a stockpile, even if it made me miserable to get there.  One day during his 4 month growth spurt, something clicked.  I had plans to go out with my husband and friends, sans baby, but I didn't have enough breastmilk stored to really enjoy the wine that evening (ie pump and dump).  I seriously considered cancelling the event, but I had an epiphany.  I LIKE WINE - that wasn't the epiphany, though.  If Everett got a formula bottle here and there, what the fuck is the big deal (epiphany!)?  So it's one bottle out of 100.... certainly not the end of the world. Not even bad.  Not even not good.  Just not breastmilk.  So what?

After that, the worry and pressure subsided and I was more at peace with my pumping.  I wish I would have realized that formula every so often was NBD for us, if necessary, a couple months earlier.  It would have made me a lot happier to know that it was there for us if we needed it.  Breast is best, but formula isn't bad, either.
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Pumping exclusively can be a very long and difficult road, but you are not alone. It is a huge commitment that's worth it for some women and understandably not for others.  If you have thoughtfully made the decision about what to feed your baby, take heart - your baby will be healthy and thrive regardless of which nourishment path you choose.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Put A Cover On!"


Over the weekend, my husband, baby and I went out to lunch, which is a pretty big treat in our world. We're working hard to be thrifty and the baby isn't always in the best mood for a restaurant but today, everything lined up perfectly and we found ourselves in the Chinese restaurant we were regulars at, back when we were regulars anywhere. There was hardly anyone in the restaurant but everyone there seemed to have a small child with them.


We ordered and Georgia began to fuss a little, so I picked her up and fed her like anyone would. Now, I am not always the most discrete breastfeeder, but when I'm in a restaurant, I really do try. It's not that I feel breastfeeding should be hidden or is in any way shameful, but often in a restaurant one cannot help what is in one's line of vision and I don't need my nipple staring at anyone while they're chowing down on fish in black bean sauce. I was wearing a dress, so I pushed the fabric to the side, popped the baby on, put her little "minky" over the top of my breast where her head didn't cover, and we were off. There was no one facing me, so it was easy to relax and feel like I was doing a good job of caring for my daughter while being a part of the world. My husband and I talked, ordered our lunch, were served our beverages, I switched the baby to the other side, repositioned her minky, and lunch as served.
Just as I was taking my first bites of my meal, a middle-aged white woman with bleach-blonde hair and a business suit walked through the restaurant. As she walked by our table, she snotted loudly, "Put a cover on!" Both my husband and I were stunned and it took us a beat to both ask, "Excuse me?" It felt like everyone in the restaurant was looking at us, trying to figure out what was going on. The woman was already at the restaurant's exit and it took some serious self-control on my husband's part not to run out there after her and rip her a new one. We went back to our lunch, talked briefly about how crazy she was and laughed it off, but it stayed with both of us. My husband was angry, really angry, and I felt embarrassed, and then embarrassed about feeling embarrassed.
The thing is, it is totally crazy behavior for an adult to yell at a stranger in a restaurant, no matter what I had been doing, and as I tried to make sense of it all, I felt the need to remind myself that no one sane with a legitimate beef would have behaved that way. What's even crazier is that woman only saw me as she walked across the restaurant; she'd been nowhere in my line of sight at any time before. That means she went from zero to I Need To Say Something in about 45 seconds. I can't imagine how she runs the rest of her life. But I also have to admit I felt sad that nursing my daughter, which has been so lovely for us, was somehow dirty and disgusting in her eyes. She got her ugly all over me and now I had to shake it off, girl, shake it off!
I emailed Cori as I was licking my wounds and she replied "...She could choose not to look if it bothered her, but to say something like that is totally out of line and just shows her nasty character. I'm glad you and Patrick didn't confront her, she wasn't worth it.... I want to punch her straight in the neck."
After that, I felt better and I remembered something I've said to myself since I was clearly pregnant and dared have a glass of wine in public: You can't live in fear of what people will think. Do your research, make your decisions, and then live your life, knowing full well that someone is going to disapprove. When you're a parent, you've got to toughen the fuck up.